Palabras 2004-2006

Palabras was a set of tools, activities and interfaces, developed during a residency in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2004-2005 (before the advent of YouTube). Palabras was designed to facilitate collective self-representation by place-based communities and promote social inclusion. This workshop/tool-kit established a framework in which technologically disenfranchised and economically marginalized communities of place engaged in a broader social and political dialogue by building databases of their own design and sharing texts, sounds and images derived from their own world of experience.

Inexpensive digital video cameras that were designed to be “disposable” (now known as the “Flip” camera) were made re-usable (with the help of cable building instructions and free software found on a DIY technology website) and a web application was developed for editing, tagging and publishing the video produced with these cameras online. 

These tools were designed for initial use in workshops at two cultural centers in Buenos Aires [El Envion in Villa Tranquila in the Municipality of Avellaneda and Crear Vale la Pena which serves the communities of La Cava and Boulogne]. The toolkit was eventually also used in workshops in Kiel (Germany), San Francisco and Darfur (Sudan).


Workshop participants used the transformed “disposable” digital video cameras to document their daily lives. The workshops focused on strategies for collective self-representation using software designed to allow participants to discover relationships and make connections between their personal stories. Workshop participants worked in groups using this custom-designed free software to edit and organize their video clips. 



The software was designed specifically to allow the participants to discover relationships and make connections between their personal stories and images. The interface provided access to the videos through folksonomies (folk + taxonomies) created by participants. Thus, communities not traditionally thought of a scholarly or academic, produced and interpreted knowledge using media and information technology.

Palabras was first exhibited at the ISEA/ZeroOne Festival in San Jose, CA in 2006 and published in the online journal Dispaxt “Improvised Maps” issue. More recently Palabras was included in the award winning curatorial project and publication Abécédaire du Web: 26 concepts pour comprendre la création sur Internet as an example, along with Antonio Muntadas’ File Room, of the concept of “the Document”. Palabras is no longer online but in 2006 the project website provided access to an archive of over 2000 video clips created in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Kiel, Germany, San Francisco and San Jose, California (US) and Darfur, Sudan.